Syedna succession case: Nass valid even if witnesses don’t accept it, says plaintiff’s counsel
The senior counsel also referred to the appointments of the 13th Imam and the 8th Dai, both of whom were appointed by their predecessors privately and without witnesses. Desai informed the bench that both the 51st and 52nd Dais in their sermons had confirmed the private communication in both instances to be nass
Mumbai: The counsel for plaintiff Syedna Taher Fakhruddin, while refuting the arguments of the defendant’s counsel that conferment of nass required witnesses, informed the Bombay high court that there were instances in the succession of the Ismaili Imams where nass was conferred privately in the absence of witnesses.
The counsel for the plaintiff made the submissions in the ongoing final hearing of the Syedna succession case to reiterate that the secret nass conferred on the original plaintiff Syedna Khuzaima Qutbuddin by the 52nd Dai in December 1965 was valid as per Dawoodi Bohra tenets, as it was divinely ordained and did not require outside witnesses. Senior advocate Anand Desai for the plaintiff, while commencing arguments in rejoinder to the submissions made by the counsels for defendant Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin, informed the bench of Justice Gautam Patel that there were no doctrinal evidences to show that conferment of nass required outside witnesses. He submitted that on the contrary there were instances wherein the conferee was the only witness, and his claim of being the successor of the Imam or Dai was not disputed or challenged by the members of the Dawat.
Earlier, the defence counsels, while arguing in response to Syedna Qutbuddin’s claim in 2014 that a secret nass had been conferred on him in 1965 without any witnesses, had relied upon various instances, sermons and writings of the Dais and knowledgeable persons of the Dawoodi Bohra community to show that witnesses were a mandatory requirement for nass to be valid. The counsels had informed HC that the conferee could not be his own witness, and outside witnesses were required to confirm the succession.
Citing the example of Prophet Idris, Desai informed the bench that as people did not know who the prophet or hujja (proof of God) was, Prophet Idris had built an astrolabe to prove that he had superior knowledge and hence he was the prophet. The bench was also told that apart from superior knowledge, the fact that a hujja was required to continue the Dawat at all times hence he was the prophet.
Desai further referred to the Quranic verse wherein Allah ordered the Holy Prophet to convey the news of Ali’s succession to the people. The plaintiff counsel said that though the Holy Prophet conveyed this to the people, who were also witnesses to the succession, they did not accept Ali as the successor immediately. However, it did not change the fact that Ali was the successor. The bench was told that in light of this it was clear that the appointment of a successor was divinely ordained, and even if witnesses did not accept it, the succession still stood. Hence, the requirement of witnesses could not be a mandatory requirement for the validity of nass.
The senior counsel also referred to the appointments of the 13th Imam and the 8th Dai, both of whom were appointed by their predecessors privately and without witnesses. Desai informed the bench that both the 51st and 52nd Dais in their sermons had confirmed the private communication in both instances to be nass.
The bench was also told that during examination, the defendant had also agreed that the 13th Imam was given entrustment in private by his predecessor, which meant conferment of nass, but the defendant had not admitted it to be so. Desai said that as per the beliefs of the community—that there had to be an Imam to continue the Dawat—though the 13th Imam did not announce his succession after the demise of his predecessor, he was the successor and hence the claim that entrustment could not be interpreted as nass was not valid.